Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Keeping it Simple!

Managed to watch most of Tom Kerridge yesterday evening, and nodded off halfway through Kirstie's Crafty Christmas.   Really do like Tom K., he is very down to earth and his cooking is more 'domestic' than a lot of TV chefs these days.  He must have really caught my attention as last night I had vivid dreams about cooking a Christmas Dinner, struggling to polish my peeled carrots with a new scouring pad (something that Tom K demonstrated but for me that is a step too far, and in the dream I ended up with carrot pulp, and they hadn't even been cooked).

Seems that this year each TV cook is showing a different way to cook our Christmas Dinner, and I suppose showing the traditional meal wouldn't make good watching (those who cook the same each year know how to do it).  Myself still prefer the meal to be how it always was : roast turkey, sausages wrapped in bacon (or small sausages and bacon rolls), sage and onion stuffing (balls or in a dish), roast potatoes, mashed spuds for those who want some, Brussels sprouts (sometimes with chestnuts or almonds added, carrots (cooked in orange juice), bread sauce, cranberry sauce, and plenty of gravy.  Sometimes include peas (for those who won't eat sprouts), and more recently it seems that red cabbage is becoming part of the meal (but not yet in the Goode household, although I do serve this with pork).

We see suggestions of serving a cooked ham as well, but again feel this is going a step too far.  Do we really NEED ham AND turkey served together on the same plate?  Both for our health and economy it seems we do go unnecessarily overboard when we cook for Christmas.  By all means keep to the traditional meal (described above), but keep the ham to eat cold over the rest of the Twelve Days.
Of course I will be cooking a gammon early next week, and this will then be kept in the fridge for everyone to help themselves as and when they want.   Any surplus will be sliced and frozen to be eaten (much) later.

As various members of our family will be meeting up at a restaurant on the 23rd, B, myself and daughter have decided to eat our turkey dinner there, and have a lighter lunch (but still a festive one) here on Christmas Day.  We are all of the age now when eating too much food, too often, takes its toll.  One good 'blow-out' a year is enough for me, although am sure that B could manage it much more often (like once a month).

Am almost tempted to try the Vesta Chow Mein Shayna, just for old times sake.  Next time I send in a Tesco order will have a think about it.

Interesting that you saw those 'folded book trees' Sairy, but cannot believe the price charged, esp. as the books would have been old ones, ready for the tip.  How lovely to have a new grandchild, and am sure it will soon grow into the lovely 'layette' you have knitted for it.  Did read somewhere that hospitals do need really tiny hand-knitted bonnets, bootees and mittens for the very small babies that are born and need to stay in hospital for a while.  Something for knitters to think about.

Agree with you up to a point Taaleedee about fresh veg v frozen.  Fresh are always the best but only when eaten as soon as possible after harvesting.  It is a fact that frozen veg retain more vitamins than those that are picked to be sold fresh (green veggies can lose 25% of vitamins within the first hour and the reason why I prefer to buy them frozen, also they are then able to be served all year round, not just when in season).  Other, long-keeping veggies I always buy 'fresh', so you would always find a big basket of onions (red, cooking, sweet white, and shallots) sitting on the top of my washing machine.  In the basket also would be a butternut squash (removed to the fridge once partly used).

Carrots, white cabbage, cauliflower, parsnips, turnips/swede, small potatoes, celery, bell peppers, all keep well in the fridge, and to these I add spring onions, sugar snap (or mangetout) peas and baby sweetcorn (for B's stir-fries), radishes, and iceberg lettuce.  Tomatoes are kept at (cool) room temperature, and the beetroot is vacuum packed.  Mushrooms are also kept in the fridge but don't keep as long as the other veggies mentioned, and packs of watercress and spinach also cucumber have a short shelf life.  The larger baking potatoes are kept in a potato sack, in the cool and dark.
Other veggies such as courgettes, aubergines tend to be purchased when in season (and not often as  B doesn't care for either, and am sure I've forgotten something, but always have enough variety to keep both B and myself happy (B prefers cooked veggies, I prefer mainly raw - salads etc).
Mixed salad leaves and herbs are picked when required from tubs and pots in the conservatory.

If I had to make a short list of 'essential' veggies, then - for me - it would be carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, cauliflower, white cabbage, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes...

A welcome to Awel who remembers her mother having The Goode Kitchen (now lost).  Recently my own copy ended up in the bowl of washing up water and left there overnight, so ended up having to be thrown away.  I do have one more copy (falling to bits) somewhere, though tend now not to refer to it very often, can remember most of my cooking from the past, and have improved most of it since.

Had to smile jane when you said your husband thought that making paper 'logs' was 'faffy'.  Is this a man thing?  My B would feel the same.  Anything that causes unnecessary work (to a male) should not be done, even if it ends up making something for nothing.   Suppose as long as it is you making the paper logs, he won't end up too fussed. 
When we had an open fire we saved on fuel by burning a lot of kitchen 'waste'. Meat and poultry bones burn well (so save the chicken/turkey carcase after making stock).  Save all the citrus skins as they contain oil, leave them to dry out a bit at room temperature (or over the radiators and they then give off a lovely aroma) and they then make good fire-lighters.
If you have any pine cones (we used to collect these when walking through woods and I still have a big basket full of them), then melt down the ends of candles (tea-lights etc), and drizzle the melted wax over the cones, when set these also make good firelighters.

When on holiday in Ireland, despite it being early summer it was chilly and raining (it rains a lot in Ireland). I wanted to light a fire, but the only fuel was blocks of peat, these - it seemed - did not burn easily without using fire-lighters (of which there were none provided).  In desperation I drizzled a little cooking oil over one peat block, left it to soak in and then put it in the grate and set it alight.  It WORKED! 

Well, as it seems your husband still hasn't replaced your Christmas Cake jane (is he hoping you will cook another to save him buying one? If so make sure he DOES buy you one, and specify the one you want - an expensive one or he will buy the cheapest - and save the dried fruits etc to use after Christmas.

There is a celebrity 'Come Dine With Me' on Channel 4 each day this week.  One of the diners is Mrs Moneypenny (from Superscrimpers), so although I probably won't be watching all the episodes, will be watching the one where she cooks (as I'd like to see her home).  After watching the line-up of photos and points given, see that Mrs. M is the last on the list, so must make sure to watch on Friday.

On to recipes for today.  Again these are geared up to the months ahead when we hopefully will still have most of the ingredients lurking in our larders.  We still have time to buy any we don't have - if you plan to cook these later.

Although I would normally cook small 'new' potatoes for this dish, no reason why canned new potatoes can't be used.  In fact canned spuds really can be used in almost all the ways fresh are.  Heated through they are like boiled 'new', and when hot they mash up really well.  I've tried roasting them and they are OK but tend to collapse when cut into (being already cooked before starting to roast), and they are very good diced to add to a Spanish Omelette or when making a 'Hash'.  So keep a few cans in your larder and once your fresh spuds have been used up you can open and can and carry on with a recipe.  Not forgetting to stock up on Smash (or own-brand instant spuds).

This recipe suggests leaving the skins on new potatoes, canned ones of course don't have skin, and also they won't need cooking, so you can omit the first part of the recipe.  Just slice the canned spuds and put them into boiling water along with the peas.  Then continue with the recipe.

Grilled Potato and Salmon: serves 3 - 4
1 lb (500g) new potatoes, sliced lengthways  
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
1 x 200g can salmon, drained and flaked
salt and pepper
1 x 200ml carton crème fraiche
4 oz (100g) mature Cheddar, grated
Boil the potatoes for 10 minutes until almost tender but not broken up.  Add the frozen peas and simmer for a further couple of minutes, then drain well.  Tip into a mixing bowl.  Set the grill on high to heat up.
Add the flaked salmon to the potatoes and peas, season to taste and spoon into a shallow flameproof dish.  Spoon the crème fraiche on top, spreading it roughly to cover, and finish by scattering the cheese on top.  Place under the grill and cook for a few minutes until the topping is bubbling and golden.

Next recipe is - in many ways - similar to the above.  We can again use canned potatoes, and this time tuna instead of salmon, green beans instead of peas. Add a bit of pesto and some tomatoes and we end up with an alternative choice .
It doesn't take much imagination to substitute cooked pasta for the potatoes and we then end up with a similar but again different dish.
As with so many recipes, if we haven't an ingredient needed we can often find a substitute in our larder.  After all, when push comes to shove, almost any carbohydrate will do (pasta instead of potatoes or rice.  Pearl barley, quinoa, instead of rice.  Couscous instead of bulgar wheat - or instead of most of the other suggestions).  All we have to remember is most vary in the time it takes to cook them.

Warm Potato and Tuna Salad: serves 3 - 4
1 lb (500g) new potatoes, halved lengthways
8 oz (225g) green beans, halved
1 - 2 tblsp pesto (to taste)
3 tblsp olive oil
good handful of spinach leaves
salt and pepper
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 x 175g can tuna, drained and flaked
Cook the potatoes for about 8 or so minutes, or until tender, adding the green beans for the final 3 minutes of the cooking time..  Meanwhile, mix the pesto with the oil.
Drain the potatoes and beans and tip into a salad bowl, immediately adding the spinach so the heat makes it begin to wilt. Add seasoning to taste, then scatter the tomatoes and tuna on top, drizzling over the pesto, then toss together.  Serve with crusty bread.

Final recipe today is a way to use up the chunky end bits of a home-cooked ham (these can be frozen if not wishing to use until later).  The recipe uses a leek, and as this is a vegetable I rarely buy (prefer onions), myself would substitute an onion (or two) for a leek.
Of course we don't HAVE to use spaghetti, any pasta shapes would do.

Leek, Ham and Pea Pasta: serves 4
10 oz (300g) spaghetti (see above)
6 oz (175g) frozen peas
1 oz (25g) butter
1 large leek (see above)
4 eggs
salt and pepper
5 oz (150g) smoked ham, cut into cubes
3 oz (75g) Cheddar or any hard cheese, grated
Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water for 10 or so minutes (if using quick-cook pasta, adjust the timing), adding the peas for the final 3 minutes of the cooking time. 
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small pan (or microwave).  Wash and slice the leek, add to the butter and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes until softened.
Beat the eggs in a bowl, adding seasoning to taste.  Drain the pasta, then immediately place it back in the (still hot) pan.  Add the leeks, eggs, ham, and half the cheese.  Stir well (there will be enough heat to cook the eggs).  Serve with the remaining cheese sprinkled on top.

That's it for today.  If all goes well today should be able to be back blogging again tomorrow (but not on Thursday).  Hope you are all managing the run up to Christmas without getting too stressed.  After all this is a time we should all enjoy, so when it comes to the big meal, forget what the TV chef's wish us to do - just keep it as simple as possible and let's hope the rest of the family realise that slaving away in the kitchen is not what Christmas is all about - at least ask them to do the washing up for you after the meal. Mind you, we cooks do love to have a family to cook for, and half the fun is serving a good spread.  But after that little chore, put your feet up and let them get on with clearing up the mess (but make sure they don't throw any food away that can be used.  Perhaps - after all - we'd better get that sorted before we sit down).
As always my request is 'keep those comments coming' (because I just love hearing from you).  TTFN.